By independent crowdfunding adviser Clive Reffell.
Live crowdfunding events give entrepreneurs valuable opportunities to deliver their pitches and receive insightful feedback from an interested audience.
An enterprising accountant, Irfan Khalil, has formed a ‘Finance for Startups’ group of over 4,000 people who are interested in equity crowdfunding. Most fall in to one of these four categories:
- they want to trade some equity for a cash investment in their business,
- they are looking for investment opportunities,
- they are at an early stage of considering using equity crowdfunding,
- or like me they provide professional services that are useful to equity crowdfunders.
Irfan organises monthly meetings at a variety of London venues. There are slots for four or five entrepreneurs to pitch their business investment opportunity in just five minutes to four or five panellists. The panellists have five minutes to ask questions, and then a final five minutes to provide feedback on what they like, what they consider ought to be better thought through, and so on.
At the end of these ‘formal’ proceedings there is then about 45 minutes of networking for everyone there to exchange ideas, experiences and contacts. Each event has a very collaborative feel to it.
February’s event was in Camden. Four entrepreneurs pitched their opportunity to five panellists in front of over a hundred people.
The panel consisted of (r to l):
- Peter Richards, a partner in Venture Pilot, which provides technology organisations with a scalable structure for growth;
- Amarjeet Hans, Director of Crystal Clear Business Consultants Ltd;
- Raimonda Junkanaite, an entrepreneur and early-stage business adviser who is setting up CrowdVelocity, a crowdfunding-for-donations platform;
- John Elsdon, Chairman of the management consultancy Allied Powers;
- Akeem Famuyiwa, an intellectual property specialist and an entrepreneur with a background in pharmaceutical science.
The four entrepreneurs and the opportunities they pitched to the panel and the audience were as follows.
.James Grant, founder of Weavee.co.uk. James is creating an app that connects job vacancies, recruiters and candidates seeking work. This is a competitive area, I have seen several crowdfunding pitches in the last few months based on apps for the job placement market. James was seeking £150,000 and believed this would be the only round of investment required before he started making a profit in the back half of Year One – subject to reaching a minimal critical mass of 10,000 registered job seekers and 100 recruitment consultants. Five job agencies are currently trialling the technology. .James had pitched three months before and the panellists agreed his pitch was getting tighter and he was coming across as more confident.
Next up was Julian Tremaud, founder and CEO of Fanteamz.co. “86% of viewers skip TV ads” he declared, as a way to start explaining that he will provide organisations with an opportunity to hire teams of brand ambassadors to deliver positive word-of-mouth campaigns. He has Spanish partners and they already have successful case histories from South America, particularly in the music concert and festival sector. Julian is seeking £250,000 for 20% equity, and forecasts £21m profit by the end of Year Three.
The panel advised Julian to be better able to explain how the company valuation figure was reached. Another suggestion was try a round of donations crowdfunding before an equity deal.
Third pitch was from James Parker from Instaload. One third of all US truck mileage is with empty vehicles. Freight bookings go through expensive brokers, often at short notice that leaves the drivers stuck with no loads to pick up at their destination to then take on to somewhere else. The growers and manufacturers with goods to shift sometimes never meet or speak to the truckers who deliver their products. To address these factors, Instaload are developing an app that will provide a direct interface between the people with products that need transporting with the smaller truck companies that carry about 20% of the USA’s road freight. This 20% market share was valued at an estimated $114bn in 2014. James was seeking £50,000 to complete the app development in exchange for 10% equity.
The panel suggested it might be too difficult to raise the finance in the UK if it was going to be invested in the US. Investors would not have market knowledge to make a confident decision and generous UK tax breaks would not be available to them. There might also be heavy industry regulation that protected the brokers’ position. Later in the informal discussion it was suggested that potential investors might not believe it credible that they could get a 10% stake in a company targeting a $114bn market for just £50,000.
The final pitch of the evening was given by Borja Goyarrola, director of Gobe! Borja hopes Gobe! will become a travel/lifestyle app populated with content provided by users about their own personal favourite locations and places to go. The sharing of such local knowledge and tips would allow travellers and visitors to experience more of the living contemporary culture of a city rather than look at iconic monuments and exhibits that celebrate past achievements. Borja was a last minute addition to the roster and it was understandable he did not have a presentation available alongside his demo video.
Borja wanted £100,000 to finish developing the app and to pay for some digital and social media marketing. The panel suggested he should target some low-scale income from advertising before he pins his hopes too much on a big spending global advertiser such as Unilever stepping in to support the fledgling Gobe! I know from experience that fmcg giants and their advertising advisers can be rather conservative when faced with new marketing channels and opportunities.
Whilst equity crowdfunding is clearly about raising finance, research shows that more crowdfunding project creators have difficulties with marketing issues than anything else.
I have over 30 years’ experience in various results-focussed marketing roles and have concentrated on crowdfunding since 2014. I’m happy to meet for initial consultations free of charge. How things develop after that depends on the scale and scope of your aims and the extent of your marketing activity so far.
Clive Reffell, founder of Comanche Communications & Marketing and an independent crowdfunding adviser: E [email protected] and Mob 07788 784373.